Scouring the internet for perimenopausal symptoms and information can lead you down a rabbit hole. That’s why I’ve decided to write this Blog, as I want to share 7 key things I think you need to know about this new chapter in your life.
1. When does perimenopause start?
Perimenopause starts when hormones begin to fluctuate and the ovaries produce less oestrogen, this typically begins when a woman is in her mid-40s.
How long perimenopause lasts is unique to you, however, it often occurs between the ages of 45–55 years old.
Although it’s rare, one in every 100 women will experience premature ovarian insufficiency (early perimenopause) before they are 40.
2. The first signs of perimenopause
So how do you know that you’re entering into perimenopause? That can be difficult to answer as there isn’t a universal experience.
Approximately 80% of women will have symptoms. The most common symptoms women experience are:
● Changes to your menstrual cycle: Your periods may become lighter or heavier. You may also notice a change in your menstrual cycle pattern which may become shorter, longer, or irregular. However, it’s important to mention that if you already have irregular cycles it may be difficult for you to detect any changes to your cycle once you enter perimenopause. You, therefore, may notice other symptoms before you see a significant change in your cycle.
● Hot flushes and night sweats: Hot flushes are common with 55% of women in perimenopause experiencing them. You may find that you get hot in particular areas of your body such as your head, neck, chest, and upper back.
● Poor memory and forgetfulness. Brain fog is also a common symptom of perimenopause due to the changes in your oestrogen and testosterone levels. You may find that you’re losing items, struggling to concentrate, writing yourself reminders or to-do lists, and may find it hard to remember information.
3. Dieting can work against you during perimenopause
The drop in your oestrogen levels can cause changes to your body shape. One of the changes you may notice is that you start to store fat around your tummy. It may be tempting to start dieting but this can cause more harm than good.
To support your body, you want to move away from dieting and restricting foods and move towards eating nourishing foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and fibre.
Enjoying a healthy diet during perimenopause can help reduce your risk of:
● heart and circulatory disease
● higher cholesterol levels
● fat around various organs, your heart, and your tummy
● increased blood pressure
● osteoporosis (weakened bones)
● sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass and strength)
4. Your food choices are key during perimenopause
To reduce the chances of experiencing the above health problems you need to include a variety of nutrients in your diet including calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
● leafy green veggies
● dried fruit
● fortified soy or almond drinks
● brazil and almond nuts
You want to be aiming for 10mg a day of vitamin D to support your bones and to help your body absorb calcium. Some food ideas are:
● fish including salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel
● red meat
● fortified foods, check out your breakfast cereals and fat spreads
● egg yolks
● green leafy veggies
● calcium-set tofu
It is VERY hard to get your daily Vitamin D requirements from food; the best way to get Vitamin D is by spending 20-30 minutes in the sun each day. In the winter months, supplementation is advised if you live in the UK or other countries that get very little sun in the winter.
Eating the right amount of protein is important for those going through perimenopause. It can help to lower your body fat and improve your cholesterol levels, maintain lean muscle mass, and lower your risk of heart disease.
Aim to eat around 1–1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. If you’re regularly working out then look to increase your protein intake to around 1.1–1.4g per kilogram of your body weight per day. This averages out to 15–30 grams of protein with each meal you have throughout the day.
Protein food ideas include:
● kidney beans
● lean meat
● nuts and seeds
5. Understanding your personal biochemistry
Understanding your personal biochemistry can play a huge role in taking back control and having a platform you can work from. Knowledge is power and it can help when making decisions on your health.
Don’t worry, biochemistry is not as scary as it sounds. There are plenty of affordable hormone testing kits that you can buy which can highlight any imbalances such as your:
● vitamin d levels
● cholesterol levels
● thyroid levels
● blood sugar levels
● oestrogen and testosterone levels
6. Stepping up movement is crucial during perimenopause
During perimenopause, looking after your physical health is important too. Working out regularly can:
● Strengthen your bones
● Help maintain a healthy body weight
● Protect your cardiovascular health
● Improve your mental health
So how much exercise do I have to do, I hear you ask! Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week.
To build and maintain muscle and keep your bones strong, aim to do weight-bearing exercises and resistance training at least twice a week.
Exercise can also lift your mood and get those endorphins pumping. Research has shown that aerobic-style activity can help improve mental health, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve your quality of sleep during perimenopause.
So, pull on those trainers, dust off those weights, and aim for weekly exercise that you enjoy!
7. It will get better...
Perimenopause does not signal the end. In fact, it can be an exciting time, a new chapter, and an opportunity to reconnect with yourself.
Of course, this can be easier said than done. But you’re not on your own, I have designed an 8-week course, Navigating Perimenopause with Confidence, which launches in September. The course helps you take the reins and make the right choices for you during your perimenopause journey. Want in? You can join the waitlist for the first launch of the Navigating Perimenopause with Confidence here.
If you’d like to see if this course is for you, or to discuss getting 121 support from me on your perimenopause journey, you can book a free discovery call.
References & Sources
Bansal, R., et al. (2019). Menopausal hot flashes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6459071/
Brain fog. (n.d.). https://www.themenopausecharity.org/2021/10/21/brain-fog/
Guide to eating well during the menopause. (2021). https://www.heartuk.org.uk/downloads/factsheets/uclp/alpro-uclp-menopause-guide---interactive-oct2021.pdf
Hayashi, K., et al. (2022). Complaints of reduced cognitive functioning during perimenopause. https://womensmidlifehealthjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40695-022-00076-9#Sec12
Ko, J., et al. (2021). Menopause and the loss of skeletal muscle mass in women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7956097/
Keep your heart healthy at menopause. (n.d.). https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/bone-health-and-heart-health/keeping-your-heart-healthy-at-menopause
Osteoporosis. (2022). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoporosis/prevention/
Perimenopausal bleeding and bleeding after menopause. (2022). https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/perimenopausal-bleeding-and-bleeding-after-menopause
Physical activity guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64. (2021). https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-guidelines/physical-activity-guidelines-for-adults-aged-19-to-64/
Simpson, S. J., et al. (2022). Weight gain during the menopause transition. https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1471-0528.17290?af=R
The vegan diet. (2022). https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-eat-a-balanced-diet/the-vegan-diet/
Thurston, R. C., et al. (2012). Vasomotor symptoms and menopause. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3185243/#:~:text=VMS%2C%20or%20hot%20flashes%20and,women%20during%20the%20menopausal%20transition.
Ward, L. Dr. (n.d.). Perimenopause and menopause. https://www.lscft.nhs.uk/services/service-finder-z/community-pain-service/perimenopause-menopause-and-pain
Wempen, K. (2022). Are you getting too much protein? https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/are-you-getting-too-much-protein
What is POI. (n.d.). https://www.daisynetwork.org/about-poi/what-is-poi/
Zhao, Y., et al. (2022). Effects of aerobics training on anxiety, depression, and sleep quality in perimenopausal women. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.1025682/full#h5